Coleman/Fleetwood Popup Trailer Awning Rail Replacement

We have a 1996 Coleman Cheyenne, one of the first years  with an ABS roof. In this article I will discuss how I replaced the old, cracked awning rail with a new one. In another article I describe refurbishing the roof.

Replacing the Awning Rail

A few years ago the plastic awning rail started to open up and lose its grip on the awning bag. As a stop-gap I drilled some holes in the rail and droIMGP7821ve screws through the top of the rail and into the bag bead. That worked for a couple years, but the awning rail continued to sag and crack. Time had come to replace it.

There were a couple challenges:

  1. How to remove the old awning rail? It was glued to the roof.
  2. How to attach a new awning rail? An ABS roof isn’t really meant to be screwed into.
  3. What awning rail to use? Metal? Plastic?

This is what I did (at the end of the article is a series of photos illustrating the procedure).

Removing Old Awning Rail

I considered a couple of choices:

  1. Pry up the old awning rail and hope the old adhesive lets go before it pulled up pieces of the roof.
  2. Admit prying up the old rail will damage the roof, so cut around the old rail so that as it pulls up the ABS skin it will do so cleanly
  3. Cut off only the C channel of the old rail, leaving the flanged base.

I initially tried #1, gently probing and prying at the old rail with a putty knife. My evaluation was if I was going to pry it up then I was going to damage the roof. I considered #2, but decided it was best to leave the roof as intact as possible, so I went with #3.

To facilitate cutting off the C channel I purchased an inexpensive Oscillating Multifunction Power Tool from Harbor Freight ($15 on sale!) along with the 3/4″ cutting blade. I did my best to cut the old channel off flush without gouging the base and was, for the most part, successful. Any cosmetic issues would eventually be covered up by the new rail or the Grizzly Grip coating.

Attaching New Awning Rail

Research on the web uncovered three techniques for attaching a new rail to the roof:

  1. Glue it on with a suitable adhesive. 3M 5200 Marine adhesive was the most commonly recommended.
  2. Bolt it on by drilling all the way through the roof and using  bolts with nuts and washers on the inside.
  3. Screw it on by embedding drywall anchors into the roof (secured with Gorilla Glue)

I had some concern with #1 especially since it was unclear how well 5200 works with plastics. I initially considered #2, but decided I did not want unsightly washers and nuts on the inside of my roof. So I decided to go with a combination of #3 and #1 — belt and suspenders! Also the 5200 would act as a sealant (in addition to an adhesive).

The Awning Rail and Other Supplies

I considered three replacement rails:

  1. Flanged metal
  2. Flanged PVC
  3. PVC Flex-A-Rail

Since the roof  line curves I figured PVC would be more flexible (although I’m sure a metal rail would have enough flex). I also figured white PVC would look better than metal. One small issue I had was that the flanged PVC rails I found had a base that was a tad bigger than the base I had left behind from my old rail. I was concerned that that would leave a pocket for moisture to collect in. So I decided on the Flex-A-Rail from Sailrite since it was similar to the C channel portion of the old rail I had cut off. And since I was screwing and bonding the rail I was not overly concerned about the narrowness of the Flex-A-Rail base. Finally the screws are hidden in the C-channel improving appearance.

Update: After completing this project and using the awning with the new rail on a camping trip I would NOT use the Flex-A-Rail if I were to do this project over. The reason is that with the Flex-A-Rail the C-channel opening is perpendicular to the base of the rail (see photo at end of this article), while the old rail’s opening was offset more towards the side of the trailer. This means the awning bag bead bends at a sharper angle and the bag itself is about 3/4″ higher than before. I noticed on our camping trip that the horizontal awning poles no longer pressed completely on the flat face of the roof — instead resting a bit higher where the roof side starts to curve. These are not big problems, and I’m still happy with the repair. But if I were to do this over I would used the Flanged PVC rail mentioned above.

To save on shipping costs I ordered 44″ sections. Here is what I ordered from sailrite.com:

  • 3 Flex-A-Rail White 44″ Long
  • 3 10-pack 4 x 6 x 3/4″ screws (special small headed screws are needed to fit down in the rail).
  • 1 #0 square head screw driver (the special screws need a square drive).

Other supplies

  • Plastic Anchors #4-6 x 7/8″, 100 pack (I used 25)
  • Acetone
  • Gorilla Glue
  • 3M 5200 Marine AdhesiveIMGP7842

Tools

  • 1/8″ drill bit
  • 3/16″ drill bit
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Blue tape
  • Measuring tape and pencil
  • That square headed screw driver from Sailrite

The Procedure In Pictures

IMGP7831

Cutting the old C channel off with the budget oscillating multi-tool from Harbor Freight.

IMGP7835

C channel all gone. Hey! That worked pretty well.

IMGP7849

Drilling pilot holes through Flex-A-Rail with 1/8″ bit. Let the bit kiss the old rail base to mark it so you know where to drill for anchors. I drilled 1″ from each end and then every 5″ to 5.5″. Sailrite recommends spacing the screws every 4″ to 6″.

IMGP7857

If you look closely you can see the divots in this photo that mark where to drill for the anchors.

IMGP7859

Next drill with 3/16″ bit for the anchors. I used some tape on the drill bit to act as a depth gauge.

IMGP7863

Gorilla glue works best if there is some dampness, so toss the anchors in some water.

IMGP7865

A little glue goes a long way since it expands.

IMGP7867

Anchor glued in.

IMGP7866

Looking good! I let these dry for a few hours before moving on to the next step. As the Gorilla glue expands it might seep out of the anchor. I cleaned that up with a bit of acetone.

IMGP7870

3M 5200 Marine Adhesive Sealant. You can find it at Lowes and Home Depot. This tube was plenty for the job. The 5200 is supposed to provide a permanent bond. But if I ever need to remove the rail I should be able to with the help of heat and a chemical debonder.

IMGP7872

The 5200 was thinner than I thought it would be. Here it is running a bit. You might want to put it on the channel instead of the old base Don’t be afraid to use a decent amount. You can wipe off the excess with a paper towel wet with acetone.

IMGP7873

I went ahead a added tape in between the screws. The 5200 takes a couple days to fully cure.

IMGP7875

Awning bag slipped in for a test fit. Note that since the channel opening is perpendicular to the base (instead of opening more towards the side of the trailer) the bag bead bends at a sharp angle. This also raises the awning bag a bit, resulting in the horizontal awning poles hitting the side of the roof where it curved. I recommend using a channel where the C opening is tilted down towards the side of the trailer.

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8 thoughts on “Coleman/Fleetwood Popup Trailer Awning Rail Replacement

  1. Pingback: Coleman/Fleetwood Popup Trailer ABS Roof Repair | Joe's Happy Hour

  2. What prevents water from entering the camper? My awning is leaking through the screws, and rotten the wood backer.
    I can’t find what to put between the camper roof and the awning rail, to prevent water from following the screws into the camper. Any help would be great.

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    • A couple thoughts:
      For my situation (foam core ABS roof) I’m relying on the 3M Marine Adhesive Sealant plus the Gorilla Glue used to glue the plastic anchors into the foam to provide a waterproof seal.
      For a traditional roof like yours I’ve seen butyl tape used between the awning rail and the roof. Then maybe some silicon sealant in the screw holes before screwing the rail on.

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    • I was wondering the same thing. did the plastic plugs actually go through to the inside of your camper? I was thinking of putting some kind of spacer between the old and new track, so that wouldn’t happen. What did you do to rectify it?

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  3. so I have a white metal track with the track facing downwards toward the side of the trailer (as you recommend) There are pre drilled holes every foot or so, so I am going to use every second hole with just plain old #8 3/4 screws and also fill the backing of the new track with PL bonding glue. Once that dries it should hold forever, or until I sell the trailer. Do you think this will be adequate?

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